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  • The First Battalion continued its westward advance beyond the front lines to reach its objective where a stream was in front and the sea on the left flank. It then placed into effect it’s long-practiced SOP (Standing Operating Procedure) for jungle perimeter defense. Each of the three rifle companies, supported by one of my machine gun platoons to form the framework of the defense, occupied a third of the circle. I toured the front lines, tying in the fire plans of all automatic weapons so that continuous bands of grazing fire could be interlocked about the perimeter.

  • Later on Bougainville, while the Executive Officer (second-in-command) of the 1st Battalion, Major Eugene Strayhorn, a former Vanderbilt football star, and I were occupying our rudimentary advanced command post, a small mortar shell, the size of a hand grenade dropped into our hole.

    Fortunately after striking my carbine, and breaking its stock, it did not explode, so my Marine Corps career was not terminated. Strayhorn’s immediate reaction was “Van, they’ve got the range. Let’s get the hell out of here.”

  • The First Battalion continued its westward advance beyond the front lines to reach its objective where a stream was in front and the sea on the left flank. It then placed into effect it’s long-practiced SOP (Standing Operating Procedure) for jungle perimeter defense. Each of the three rifle companies, supported by one of my machine gun platoons to form the framework of the defense, occupied a third of the circle. I toured the front lines, tying in the fire plans of all automatic weapons so that continuous bands of grazing fire could be interlocked about the perimeter.

  • On September 27, 1943, while still based on Guadalcanal, we were informed that the Third Marine Division would land in the vicinity of Cape Torokina, Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville, and seize and defend a beachhead between the Torokina and Laruma rivers. This was a lightly defended area, on the eastern shore, far from the main Japanese forces.

  • Introduction to a new series

    I have just concluded a 31-part series of columns covering my initial five years of service as a commissioned officer in the regular U. S. Marine Corps. It was based upon my Marine Corps Journal, which I kept in long hand from 1937 until journals were prohibited for security reasons in 1942.

    This series had been well received by readers of diverse interests, including a preeminent frontier painter, a senior financial consultant, and a friend who has delivered my daily newspaper for years.

  • July 25, 1942

    M.B. New River, N.C. – I was detached from WASP on 25 June after my request to remain on board was disapproved by headquarters.

  • May 13, 1942

    Two days south of Scapa. This trip has been more gratifying than the last. Over the weekend the Spits we delivered to Malta shot down or destroyed 110 Axis planes [Generally in agreement with historical records of the Siege of Malta], losing only seven themselves.

  • Want to jazz up your workout or even begin a fun new one?

    You might want to pop in at Jazzercise on Main Street and join in the fun.

    Diane Young smiled as she began to warm up.

    “I really like it,” she said. “I had a total knee replacement September 13 and this has really helped me.”

    Nel Grin, instructor and owner of the facility, said that having fun is the key to a successful exercise routine in terms of longevity.

  • Note: I would like to express again my appreciation to Wendy Noble, younger sister of Spitfire pilots Jerry and Rod Smith, who has provided advice and copies of her trove of documents concerning her brothers’ lives. In doing so I would like to quote from The Spitfire Smiths by Rod Smith, with Christopher Shores. In his Introduction, Shores writes: “Throughout I have been greatly assisted by Wendy Noble without whose efforts I certainly could not have completed this account...”

  • Author’s Note: This is my 200th column in a series “History Researched and Recalled,” published in The Sentinel-News since 2007.

    [I continue to depart from My Marine Corps Journal temporarily to describe the hazardous missions of a spitfire pilot.]

    Selected entries in Jerry Smith’s Diary:

  • Sculptor Jenny Hager-Vickery is proud of her latest creation.

    At 20 feet tall, Gypsy the Giraffe, a life-sized sculpture she created for the Jacksonville Zoo, is the largest she has ever done.

    “My husband actually worked on it with me as well; it was a daunting task – the largest I had made up to now was fifteen feet tall,” she said. “I call her Gyspy – that's her pet name – I name things with alliteration, so she got a ‘G’ name.”

  • May 3, 1942

    Yesterday, we unmoored and stood down the Clyde, anchoring in Greenock. The weather was perfect and the green hills were very tempting. I went ashore for a few hours in that famous old shipbuilding town, drank a couple of beers, walked miles, and noticed some ruins from last year’s air raids. It’s amazing the difficulty one has in buying whiskey in Scotland. Underway at 0530 this morn.

    May 7, 1942

  • April 22, 1942

    The Wasp’s second “campaign” is nearly over – the “Battle of the Mediterranean,” the first having been our “conquest” of Martinique. [An attempt at jest]

    The morning of 19th we passed through the Straits of Gibraltar on my mid watch. The lights of Tangier and Ceuta were illuminating the African shore, but the Gibraltar side was blacked out except for navigational lights.

  • As he gave a haircut and a shave to a customer, Robert Marshall talked about how the thriving African American business community on Henry Clay Street has all but disappeared since he opened his barbershop there in 1960.

    “We’re were just discussing that at the Martin Luther King service a few weeks ago, the way it was, compared to how it is now,” he said, expertly using a comb to shape the customer’s new do.

  • April 6, 1942

    Yesterday afternoon and evening I was the guest of Captain Bell, R. M. [Royal Marines] on the Duke of York, most recently- commissioned British battleship. I made a complete tour of the ship and noticed that she is not a clean ship, but a happy one. I had previously met Bell in Norfolk and it seemed very strange to meet him again, here, 3,000 miles away.

  • Caught up in a whirlwind of festivities from balls to parades to concerts to the swearing in of the 45th president of the United States on the West Lawn of the Capitol, some Shelby Countians who attended the 58th Presidential Inauguration in Washington D.C. over the weekend expressed awe and pride at having seen history in the making.

    For some, such as the Justice family, being there was a matter of pride in a military background, said Selina Stratton, who attended with her parents, James and LaGeni Justice and her brother, Jacob Justice.

  • March 20, 1942

    [Message to Wasp, dated March 20, from Headquarters, Marine Corps, ]

    YOU ARE AUTHORIZED TO MODIFY ORDERS CAPT R R VAN STOCKUM TO DETACH HIM PRIOR TO REPORTING HIS RELIEF CAPT BUTTERFIELD PROVIDED YOU SO DESIRE

    [I had written across this message in long hand “So near and yet so far.”]

    March 22, 1942

  • A Reminder: I have included only significant quotations from my journals and these appear in plain text. My current comments and explanations are in bold type between brackets.

    Create a nuisance by attempting escape

    January 22, 1942

    The item attached is rather amusing to me. I can see myself in a German prison camp with a guard to every hundred yards of barb wire fence, attempting to escape in order to create a nuisance.

    [Here I pasted an item apparently clipped from the Wasp’s Plan of the Day:

  • December 8, 1941 (Continued)

  • Editor’s note: This column was originally published on May 1, 2009, and is being republished because of the recent death of former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

    General David M. Shoup, Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, a friend of mine, had more serious challenges to face in 1962. Before that year was out, a crisis of the greatest magnitude had developed.

    Soviet missile bases in Cuba